Updated: November 19, 2016
All right. Give me a K. Give me ... whatever. We've reviewed Ubuntu and Xubuntu of the latest crop so far. Ubuntu delivered a less than mediocre setup, while the Xfce-flavored distro was surprisingly refined. Which begs a question. What will the Plasma child do?
It is time to submit the Kyak to test - see what I did there? I will be using the same test box as always, the notorious G50, which isn't notorious at all if distro developers actually bothered writing a normal network driver stack for it (psst: they eventually did). But as it is, we will be facing some naughty Realtek issues - pronounced real tech - both on the hardware side and proverbially. Shall we continue?
Kubuntu launched fine, and it did not complain about any of the acronymed stuff that runs on the box, the list including 16 partitions, GPT like duh, hosting half a dozen plus distros and a lonely Windows 10, and there's UEFI and Secure Boot to make it all the more interesting. No sweat.
The desktop is polished and elegant, and as soon as I tried to connect to my Wireless network, it prompted me twice for password, once in the system area applet, and then a second time with a distinct center-of-desktop popup. This is a silly little bug that we have seen before. You can do better than that. For realz.
The screenshot functionality is still stupid. Spectacle is a light year behind KSnapshot, it's still highly non-intuitive, and it creates this shadow slash border that isn't symmetric all around. It's one of those apps that were created to solve a problem that did not exist, and then they end up sucking twice as much as anything that came before. Expect ugly screenshot borders. Not my fault. But it epitomizes the OSS suck.
Now, Plasma Yak is pretty, but not without faults. For example, the widget button is in the top left corner, and this aligns with the whole menu thingie, Ubuntu thingie, alt-tab functionality and all that, but it overlays with the folder view, and the transparent system menu is not the best choice here. All in all, things can be improved ever so slightly.
All right. So we have a mixed bag of fleas here. Wireless worked and did not crash during the live session. Samba printing is a no for some odd reason. Samba sharing worked without issues, blimey, but if you copy files, the timestamp will not be preserved. As far as Bluetooth goes, I enjoyed the simplest, most streamlined configuration of all the distros out there. Consistency seems to elude the Linux world. It's like going to a party where people put their car keys in a bowl and then you randomly take an item out, you can never really be sure if you are going to be pleasantly surprised. However, I was not able to control the volume of the BT-paired device or pause playback, even though these commands slash functions slash buttons clearly show in the menu.
Smartphone support - It's alive, it's alive!
Weird science! Holy turds of the Himalaya! Finally, for the first time EVAR, Plasma actually auto-mounted both the Ubuntu Phone and the iPhone, the latter with PTP, without any errors, problems or such. It's like OMG 2016 has finally arrived in Linux. Nice.
Remember all the woes that I had in the past, and all the manual setups we had to go through so we could successfully mount our smartphones? Well no more, Captain! Or at the very least until the next regression. But for now, you can safely ignore my tutorials, both for Kubuntu and the KDE flavor of Fedora. Who would have thought?
No MP3, no prompts for codecs. HD video works fine, and so does Youtube, and by that, I mean the browser behaved and did not go hissy on me in any way. Amarok had all sorts of ugly timeouts, on sockets and music charts. This has been around for at least five years. Can you fix the damn thing? What's the point of this amateurish stuff?
More improvements here. Smoother and faster overall, even though the partitioning step still takes ages. Has to be the discovery service under the hood, as it affects different desktop environments, if not equally. This is just to keep you on your toes. Mercifully, we don't need to setup the Wireless, and if you've already done this, the wizard will then skip this step. Progress! Oh, the timezone was all wrong.
The slideshow was erratic, unpredictable, even frightening. I thought the wizard had quit on me, as it seemed stuck not doing much. But then, it all ended well, and the bootloader was set up just fine. All of it.
The desktop launched, all dandy and whatnot. No Wireless by default, you will need to provide your password, but only once this time, plus a cute if annoying KWallet prompt. The driver utility also reared up, asking for intervention. The update manager also came to life, but it needed some time to refresh its list, which may appear as if the system is up to date.
Package management - Idiocracy
Total nonsense. Gnome has the new and crippled Software, KDE/Plasma has Discover. Both these programs have been designed just for the sake of reinventing code, without solving anything. Both look like a smartphone turd left to dry in the field, and both are utterly slow, ugly, and pointless in their functionality. Much like Software, Discover was not able to find Steam, but apt-get did, of course. To make this even less aligned to a family standard, Kubuntu could not find Skype, whereas Ubuntu and Xubuntu could, and you actually need to do some command line magic to fix this. So amateurish. Anyhow, this is what you need to also get Skype in your Kubuntu. Such a simple fix. It takes less than one minute of QA to test and verify this.
sudo add-apt-repository "deb http://archive.canonical.com/
$(lsb_release -sc) partner"
sudo dpkg --add-architecture i386
sudo apt-get update
sudo apt-get install skype
Network diededed on me
Yes, as expected, the Realtek card went down a couple of times, less so after applying the tweak, and strangely, not once while running on battery power - something that I've observed lately in Fedora after a fresh kernel update. Madness. But much like Ubuntu, just re-inserting the module wasn't enough, I also had to HUP the DNS service and the network manager. If you want to try, then you wanna do it with the PID for:
kill -HUP <PID of /usr/sbin/NetworkManager --no-daemon>
We get the coveted MP3 support, finally.
I can't say I was too impressed with the default set. It's not too exciting. You get Firefox, KMail, LibreOffice, GwenView, and a few handy utilities. But that's only half the problem. When I actually tried using some of the stuff, it complained about Akonadi not running, and then Akonadi couldn't run.
ImageMagick completely failed to start. GIMP comes with ugly, non-integrated fonts, probably because it's missing some kind of Gtk package that makes stuff look better under Plasma. Firefox was terribly slow while browsing. Very sluggish. Not the best app stack that I've seen in recent months, that's for sure. On top of that, System settings and Spectacle both died on while I was tweaking and fiddling. And they don't even have the same crash report thingie. So stupid.
All right, except the Realtek issue, of course. Fn buttons and all them shenanigans, no issues there. Suspend & resume worked fine, and the Wireless worked without issues after waking up. This is absolute madness. Someone needs to have their gonads electrocuted with an old Lada 2104 car battery, just for good measure.
Purely from the numbers perspective, Yakkety Yak is a fairly light distro, with 550 MB and about 2% CPU noise. But this does not translate into any superlative performance or responsiveness. The system is fairly sluggish. Not bad, but not great either.
Well, with about 68% juice and 50% brightness, Kubuntu 16.10 offered roughly 2 hours of juice on a battery that has seen about 10% deterioration over its lifetime so far. With the full screen glare, the value goes down to about 1 hour 40 minutes. So we gain roughly 20% on brightness. And the total is about 3 hours. Not bad. Not ideal.
Application crashes. These have been absent from the KDE/Plasma stack for a while, and now they're back. Regressions are love, regressions are life. You cannot also use just the Super key as the menu invocation shortcut. Why not. The year is 2016, are we really going to be using this sub-100 IQ thing? A few other niggles, somewhat offset by a dozen other little bugs having been fixed. But that's like saying, you cure syphilis with chlamydia. Pointless.
For a distro slash desktop environment that prides itself on being highly customizable, Plasma has none of the flair that KDE once did. Gone are the days of easy changes to your themes and window borders and icons. I spent almost an hour trying to find suitable tweaks, but they were far and few in between. Most of the existing stuff is utterly broken. Dead links, broken configurations, outdated packages. Just search for Faenza and see what happens. It's such a disgrace. Please, clean this up. Now.
In the end, I had nothing but a new wallpaper, but this really annoys me. You cannot mix elements from the Breeze and Breeze Dark themes, no suitable icons, not even the ones you extract manually into your home folder, nothing. The icons also have no common shape or style, to wit, my example below. It's just not meant to be. Plasma needs to kill roughly 99% of all available decorations, enforce a strict method of packaging, and then start fresh. I so hate when you get these file not found errors and similar crap.
But hey, the Show Desktop widget is back!
Let us draw the verdict. It's a strange one. Oddly, this is probably the best Kubuntu that I've tested in a long time. Sadly, that's like saying losing one finger in a freak chainsaw accident is better than losing two fingers. Not the best measure stick. Not something to be proud of. There are many, many problems in Yakkety Yak Plasma, including but not limited to the application stack, stability, performance, package management, and the ability to customize. That's not a happy list.
Brave face on, we also have a lot of goodies to focus on. A very decent - and FIRST for Plasma - smartphone support stack and multimedia playback as they should be. Lots of old bugs have been fixed. If only we had Samba printing support out of the box, and the network card driver was given a little bit of love, this might be a reasonable distro.
Kubuntu 16.10 Yakkety Yak is nothing to be proud of, but it is an okay Plasma release that has redeemed a whole generation of failed distributions in the past year or so. It's funny how it's gone from being my favorite to a pariah, and now it's slowly recovering. Such a waste of effort. And why? There was really no need for this whole regression saga. Anyhow, the road to success is still a long and perilous one. It will take a lot more before Kubuntu becomes a recommended household item again. But at the very least, 16.10 is showing a little of that promise. 7/10, if I'm being generous, more like 6/10, but you might want to give it a spin and see what gives. QED.